There’s really no bad time of year to head up to Reno and Tahoe in Northern Nevada. But if the area’s world-class skiing, hiking, fishing, hot-air-ballooning, cool summer nights and stunning fall foliage aren’t enough to lure you out of the desert, maybe we need to try a different tactic: beer. Right along with the rest of the world, Reno’s craft beer scene has continued to grow apace, with the city’s hip Midtown neighborhood (like our Downtown, but with 100 percent more artisan cheese shops) serving as an incubator for exceptional craft beer entrepreneurship. Here’s what was hopping on my most recent beer crawl.
Brasserie Saint James
Think of it as the starting line. Owner Art Farley’s renovation of Midtown’s historic Crystal Springs water and ice building dating back to 1929 has an intact spring (good beer starts with good water!) in the brewhouse, and is the ideal place to get one’s bearings. Prime the pump with Old World-style brews including the Red Headed Stranger Red Farmhouse Ale, Koln Concert German-Style Kölsch and whatever’s on the chalkboard (especially the award-winning Rose D’Oren). BrasserieSaintJames.com.
My father always says to hit your farthest point early and work your way home. This stop takes you a quick 10-15-minute drive south to get to Nevada’s first legal brewery since Prohibition. Ignore the video poker machines (hey, it’s still Nevada) and focus on the day’s offerings. Hopefully, you can try their Ichthyosaur IPA, Cerveza Chilibeso and Outlaw Milk Stout in one visit. GreatBasinBrewingCo.com.
Imbīb Custom Brews
It was homebrewing one-off beers for friends and family that brought Imbib’s three partners together, and just because they’ve gone pro doesn’t mean they’ve changed their MO. Pull up a stool in the recently opened tap room, where you won’t find year-round standards so much as you will seasonally inspired specialties, barrel-aged brews and sours. Stick to what looks familiar or go wild with the Bière de Garde, Scottish Ale (a little lighter than Scotch Ale) and 100 Percent Brett, or a mini-flight of sour, low-alcohol flavored Berliner Weisses. The sour cucumber is a stunner. ImbibReno.com.
Lunchtime! This place is a little bit of everything: brewery, distillery, restaurant and museum. The building was briefly the city’s train depot, but spent a lot of time since the ’40s in disuse and decline before being transformed. From the bar, watch the tanks and stills be put to good use making their solid, entry-level beers: The Farmer Saison, The Emigrant Sour Wheat, The Blacksmith Stout. Level up with Il Padrino, a Belgian-Style Quadrupel, and don’t forget a little sip of their vodka, gin and young, grainy bourbon. TheDepotReno.com
Is this Seattle? Portland? Austin? Nope, but don’t tell epically hip Pigeon Head—we don’t want them to change a thing about this little taproom right in front of the brewery. Named for a disquieting painting of the same name, Pigeon Head specializes in lagers and—I would argue—black beers. If you’ve never tried a black lager or wheat wine (like a barley wine but …), this is the place. Industrial metal trays line up your flight, which will hopefully include their Red Rye Lager, Black Lager, IPL (India Pale Lager) and Black Wheat Wine. PigeonHeadBrewery.com.
Under The Rose
In the shadow of Mount Rose, founders Scott Edmond and his wife, Jesse Kleinedler, are making interesting and pitch-perfect beers. The location—if you can find it—is a riot, being a converted Earl Scheib auto-painting facility filled with bar games and the occasional food truck. But the impermanence of the décor stands in contrast to the kind of dedication going on in the brewhouse. Ease in with BroBeer dry-hopped American table ale, then move on to the BritishBeer English-style pale ale, SaisonBeer French-style farmhouse ale and chocolate rye PorterBeer. Bring a growler for whatever’s seasonal on tap. UnderTheRoseBrewing.com.
The Brewer’s Cabinet
Save the Cabinet for the next day, when you might be in need of a little hair of the dog. Kegs & Eggs brunch is served 9 a.m.-noon Saturday and Sunday, offering you bottomless Tahoe craft beers and a Benny or breakfast sammie for $15. Now you’re ready to do it all over again! TheBrewersCabinet.com.
While You’re At It …
Pignic Pub & Patio
You bring the meat and fixin’s, they’ve got the grills, sides, fresh brews and barbecue-friendly cocktails. Facebook.com/PignicPub.
Reno’s first stand-alone growler station. Pick one up or bring your own, then fill it from any of 30 local taps. Kombucha, too! SixFourGrowlers.com.
Craft Beer & Wine
You need souvenirs. Enter the walk-in beer fridge for truly hard-to-find selections. Take home or enjoy in-store at picnic tables. CraftReno.net.